Alex Killorn scored the go-ahead goal halfway through the third period and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 36 shots as the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Washington Capitals 4-2 to level the Eastern Conference finals at 2-2.
Killorn scored at 11:57 of the third period on Thursday, taking a pass from teammate Ondrej Palat and then slipping a backhand through the legs of Washington goaltender Braden Holtby to break a 2-2 tie.
“Palat made a great play to me at the front of the net and I put it on my backhand and caught him five hole,” said Killorn, who snapped a 10 game scoreless drought.
Tampa Bay regained home ice advantage in the series but it may not matter, as the victory at Washington’s Capital One Arena followed a familiar pattern. The road team has now won all four games in the series.
The Lightning will try to break that mold when they host game five on Saturday.
“It’s pretty bizarre,” said Tampa star forward Steven Stamkos. “We’ve got to find a way to win one at home.”
Stamkos, Brayden Point and Anthony Cirelli also scored for the Lightning, who had bounced back in game three winning 4-2. Stamkos now has six goals and 10 points in a seven-game point streak.
Vasilevskiy made 36 saves — for the second consecutive game — showing that reports of the Lightning’s demise were premature.
“When you don’t have your A game, you need your goalie to have his A game,” said Tampa coach Jon Cooper. “And he sure did.”
Evgeny Kuznetsov, with his 10th of the postseason, and Dmitry Orlov scored goals for Washington who dropped to 3-5 on home ice in the playoffs.
Wins are so hard to come by for the Capitals in their own building that Kuznetsov said after game two he had “just been dreaming to play all games on the road … I really like to be on the road.”
Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Thursday he’s confident his players will rebound in Florida.
“Sometimes the road you get on is not always straight,” said Trotz. “I can’t say we didn’t play well. I thought we came out with a good start and got the first goal.
“This was another test for this group. The second and third period we were fine. We were dictating play and we did a lot of good things, we just didn’t get the result we wanted.
- ‘Comfortable on the road’ –
“We are comfortable going on the road and our intention is to go to Tampa and win.”
One piece of good news for Washington on Thursday was the return of forward Nicklas Backstrom, who missed the last four games with a hand injury.
Backstrom had 21 goals and 50 assists in the regular season. On Thursday he finished with no points and four shots on goal.
Washington outplayed the Lightning for much of game four and finished with almost twice as many shots, outgunning the Lightning 38-20 overall.
They peppered Vasilevskiy with 29 shots in the first two periods but couldn’t muster a decent shot in the final sequence of the third with their net empty. They also failed to score on four power play opportunities.